In the most dramatic response so far to the Los Angeles Community College District's ongoing financial problems, Pierce College in Woodland Hills has cut one-third of its classes for the spring semester, campus officials said Wednesday.
Deep class cuts have been approved at other district campuses as well, with Harbor College in Wilmington closely behind Pierce with a 29% reduction in classes for next semester.
Most cuts, including those at Valley College in Van Nuys and Mission College in Sylmar, generally fell between 10% and 20% of course offerings.
East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park is the only campus spared from the cuts, which are the result of a Board of Trustees edict that each college must live within its budget.
Despite the most generous state budget in years for community colleges, deficit spending from the recession of the early 1990s has caught up with the district's campuses. Now, district trustees are requiring them to repay debts owed to a central reserve fund.
Administrators throughout the nine-campus district acknowledged that the cuts could temporarily stymie students. But officials said they tried to eliminate peripheral classes with less than maximum enrollment and to preserve courses needed to complete a two-year degree and transfer to a four-year school.
"It will be a meat-and-potatoes schedule, with none of the appetizers and side dishes," said E. Bing Inocencio, president of Pierce College, whose $4.8-million deficit is the largest in the district.
Pierce cut 627 classes, about 32% of its usual offering of about 2,000, at a savings of about $500,000, officials said.
Luis Rosas, dean of academic affairs at Los Angeles Harbor College, said similar steps were taken at the Wilmington campus.
Rosas and Inocencio said students can expect slightly larger classes as a result of the cuts, but maintained that the basic courses in highest demand will still be available.
On the Pierce campus, however, students said there is already a shortage of "meat and potatoes" classes, which will only be exacerbated next semester.
"Oh, my God . . . I'll never graduate," said Maria Cebreros, 32, a parent who holds down a full-time job and attends Pierce and Cal State Northridge at night in hopes of becoming an environmental health worker. "It's very hard to get the classes you need and now they're going to make it harder."
The looming cutbacks in spring courses surfaced as a topic at the last monthly meeting of the district's academic deans.
"Most of us in the L.A. District are facing the same scenario," said Rosas of Harbor College, whose campus is lopping 215 classes from its spring offerings.
Los Angeles City College in east Hollywood is planning to cut 12% in hourly spring classes, although administrators have scrambled to minimize the losses.